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Public Safety Committee to Move Forward on Police Oversight

Published on Wednesday, April 14, 2021 | 5:49 am

The Pasadena NAACP on Tuesday called on local residents to demand that the City Council’s Public Safety Committee recommend people of color to the full council on Wednesday after the committee interviews seven candidates from community-based organizations.

“We need to demand that the community based oversight committee is filled with Black people and people of color with crucial lived experience on issues of policing,” the group wrote in an email Tuesday.

The email also called for the committee to recommend candidates from organizations that have been doing work on police reform in the community and representing Pasadena-based organizations.

Although the agenda only includes application materials of the seven candidates, the candidates are expected to address the committee and answer questions.

The diverse field includes six women and one man. They are Patrice Marshall McKenzie of the Pasadena Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Mikala Rahn of Learning Works, Florence Annang of the Pasadena NAACP,  Shoghig Yepremian of the Armenian National Committee of America,

Kenneth Rotter of the San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center, Juliana Serrano of All Saints Church, and Alexis Abernathy of the Pasadena-Altadena Chapter of Links.

Four of the women are Black, one is Latina, one is Armenian, and one is white. Rotter is the sole man among the candidates. The organization he represents is the LBGTQ Center in nearby Monrovia.

Last week, the seven candidates were chosen by members of the committee from a pool of 13 applicants.

The committee was supposed to make recommendations based on the applications, but the committee agreed to conduct interviews due to the importance of the appointments.

“This is a matter of tremendous importance. This is the real first step in the appointment process,” said Mayor Victor Gordo.

Although Black residents have been calling for oversight since the early 1990s, only 19 residents from two of the city’s minority City Council districts turned in applications.

Councilmember John Kennedy, who at one point was the sole voice on the City Council calling for oversight, said he believes the city has an outreach problem to the minorities in Pasadena that he believes could be solved.

“Council districts are not monolithic. Some are more diverse than others,” Kennedy said.  “The question is one of interest, knowledge, and empathy.  You don’t have to be Black or Brown to know that there is a justifiable belief by minorities that unbiased policing and receiving justice in this country continues to be a monumental challenge. However, in Pasadena we are taking measured steps to demonstrate that we will do better with policing in general and particularly ensuring that only that force that is necessary is used or deployed in interactions with residents, visitors and business owners. Most of the time that will mean no force at all by our police officers.”

The interviews come as the nation reels from the officer-involved shooting death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man shot and killed in Minneapolis when a police officer reportedly mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser and shot him.

Officer Kim Potter, who shot Wright, resigned on Tuesday. The Police Chief also resigned,

The incident has led to two nights of unrest.

Meanwhile, the nation continues to watch the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin killed George Floyd during a traffic stop last year when he put his knee in Floyd’s neck for nine minutes.

That incident renewed the calls for oversight in Pasadena and moved the City Council to pass a local ordinance.

“The Pasadena Police Oversight Commission will not solve every concern about policing, but it will increase transparency, hold professionals accountable and give policy makers and residents a larger window to view exactly what is happening and how to ensure positive change,” Kennedy said. “It is still my belief that the Pasadena Police Oversight Commission will be comprised of committed, knowledgeable, highly skilled and diverse community representatives.”

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